Stranded Review

Note: This review was written entirely sans PR materials and research; ordinarily, we pride ourselves on diligence and copious amounts of background research, but due to the game’s clear intentions and sensibilities, chose to approach this review differently.

The single worst thing about adventure games – the one aspect that is also almost wholly unique to them – is being stuck. (Worse still, in fact, is knowing when you’re badly stuck.) For players, after all, adventure games are all about progression; for developers, they are all about managing it.

The genre on the whole is a curious balancing act of controlling tempo, pacing, difficulty, balance, and the flow of information.

Peter Moorhead’s Stranded, then, is supposed to be

“[…] a minimalist adventure game that foregoes dialogue and puzzles to focus on atmosphere, mystery, and exploration; it is both a love letter to classic point & click adventures, and an experiment with the fundamentals of the genre.“1

To read the store page like the Devil does the Bible, then, according to the quote the fundamentals of adventure games are 1) dialogue, and 2) puzzles. From what I could gather, Stranded has neither of these things. Hence, it would be perfectly fair to state that Stranded is either a piss-poor adventure, or it isn’t one at all. Love letter? More like breaking up with emoji. (more…)

  1. http://store.steampowered.com/app/295250/ []

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The Samaritan Paradox Review

The Samaritan Paradox, a relatively new commercial AGS adventure game by Faravid Interactive’s Peter Ljunkvist, published by Screen 7, is a story about a story. A refreshingly Swedish one, too. The game’s protagonist, Ord Salomon – ‘ord’ is Swedish for ‘word’ – is a shut-in PhD student of literature, rotting away at a failing thesis, with worried friends, until he chances upon the daughter of a prominent dead Swedish author.

Salomon, a hobbyist cryptographer obsessive-compulsive about signs, instantly begins to solve the apparent secrets contained within the dead author’s final work, “The Last Secret,” which also functions as the key to the writer’s complicated relationship with his daughter and family. And to a large inheritance that could also help Ord repair his finances.

As is obvious from the get-go, The Samaritan Paradox has all the makings of a splendid detective game; it has a beautiful look and feel, with expertly crafted (especially animated) pixel graphics, and a highly under-used locale in the cold reaches of the Nordic to boot. A philological adventure – who would have wagered? (more…)

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The Shivah: Kosher Edition Review

The Shivah 01In many ways, Dave Gilbert’s adventure game The Shivah, now re-released and re-mastered under the “Kosher Edition” subtitle on Steam and on the iPad, is a game of firsts.

Released originally in 2006, it was Gilbert’s first commercial game1, and, in fact, one of the first commercial Adventure Game Studio games on the whole. It’s also where his publishing studio, Wadjet Eye Games, got kickstarted (in a time before Kickstarter). Though the developer had already released other games, for free, like The Repossesser (2001), and Bestowers of Eternity (2003), the game that later became The Blackwell Legacy, it was this game that would become his calling card.

After all, The Shivah was the first AGS game to receive any real mainstream coverage, perhaps in large part due to its mundane, real-world setting, and Gilbert’s writing chops. Some readers may still recall, for instance, Boing Boing’s early snippet of an article on the game. Imagine: This miniature mention was – by far! – the most coverage that the AGS platform had received since its inception in 1999!

And as far as firsts go, it was – quite probably – the first game with a rabbi as its lead. (more…)

  1. Curiously, the game was not a commercially-minded title at first; the original version was in fact a MAGS contest submission that was then reworked – much like the Kosher Edition! []

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Primordia Review

Primordia, Wormwood Studios’ dystopian android adventure (and Wadjet Eye Games’ latest foray into publishing,) is a treacherous game to review. It single-handedly put me off reviewing games for a long time – heck, we received our review copy at launch half a year ago, and I’ve subsequently tried my hand at it every now and then, what with it being bundled both in Indie Royale and Groupees.

This is not to say that Primordia is a bad game. Nothing of the sort. It is unquestionably filled to the brim with artistic merit, passion, and conceptual integrity. Yet it also secretes such familiarity, evokes such an extraordinarily vivid sense of déjà vu, that it is impossible for me, personally, to brush it aside and to merely treat the game as ordinary genre-aware homage.

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Resonance Review

Out of all the highly esteemed indie adventure games in the Wadjet Eye Games catalogue, Vince Twelve’s Resonance had by far the longest journey from start to finish.

Though intended for commercial release from the get-go, the game was announced in low-key fashion on the Adventure Game Studio forums in 2008, and then later Kickstarted in 2009, long before the “Double Fine” explosion of 2012, back when the landscape and prospects were vastly different. By the Kickstarter campaign, however, the game had already been in the works for over 2 years!

As with their other recent offerings, in Primordia and Gemini Rue, Wadjet Eye’s Dave Gilbert swooped to XII Games‘ aid to make finishing Twelve’s project a reality. With good reason: It’s no secret, by now, that Resonance is a very good game – one of 2012’s best adventures.

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